Making Tomorrow’s Jobs

Opponents of coal-fired power plants often make a strong case for their devastating health, environmental, and climate effects. But coal advocates often try to trump those arguments with the claim that new coal plants will create new jobs and that closing old ones will kill jobs and have other devastating economic effects.

The jobs-versus-the-environment frame has been a crucial means to divide communities, stigmatize efforts to retire coal plants as job-killing and antiworker, and persuade the public that more coal means more jobs. But clean-energy advocates have begun developing strategies to counter these arguments—strategies which could help transform the future debate.

Refuting False Jobs Claims

The first strategy is refuting false claims about the job benefits of coal-fired plants. How common are such false jobs claims? A 2011 study by the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies in Chattanooga examined the impacts on jobs in their host county of the six largest new coal-fired power plants that opened between 2005 and 2009. It found that in only one case was the number of new construction jobs even close to what proponents had projected. In four of the six cases, barely a quarter of the promised jobs materialized. [i]

Any community faced with claims that jobs will be retained or created by burning coal should first of all secure the expertise to find the truth. For example, when communities in eastern Kentucky were told that the proposed Smith coal-fired power plant would produce thousands of new jobs, they brought in the Ochs Center to prepare a study that found such claims were wildly exaggerated (see “Power Studies”).

Coal plants can often have negative economic effects on nearby communities. For example, groups advocating the closure of the South Bay Power Plant in Chula Vista, California, effectively argued preservation of the plant impeded the city’s bay-front redevelopment plan. When the decision was made to close the plant, city councilwoman Pamela Bensoussan noted, “We can now attract viable businesses with the certainty of knowing that plant is going away. This is key to the redevelopment of Chula Vista.” [ii] Pollution can reduce the value of property in a wide area around a plant. Health effects can raise worker absenteeism and require far higher costs for medical care. Coal-retirement advocates are using such negative effects to refute claims that coal burning is job-friendly.

A Jobs Program of Our Own

Clean-energy advocates are going beyond refuting false jobs claims to a second strategy: developing their own jobs programs based on clean, renewable energy.

Many studies show that in general renewable energy and conservation produce far more jobs than an equivalent investment in coal plants (see “The Jobs Story”). Now campaigns to block or close local coal plants are showing that in the areas around particular power plants, more jobs will be created by investment in conservation and renewable energy than in coal generation (see “The Navajo Nation” and “Renew Eastern Kentucky”).

Campaigns are now beginning to link efforts to block or shut down particular plants to plans not just for a clean-energy alternative, but for a long-term economic alternative that creates jobs rebuilding the local economy on a sustainable basis.

There are important reasons for such an approach. As K. C. Golden of Climate Solutions put it,

While we always want transition plans to feature clean energy as much possible, it’s important to include a broader economic development scope. As conservationists, our standing in these communities and the trust we can win depends on supporting those communities and workers in achieving economic security. If we only focus on clean-energy elements of the transition, we run the risk that (a) the alternative plan won’t be sufficient to leave the communities and workers in good shape, and (b) we will reinforce the perception that all we care about is “our agenda,” rather than being committed to the economic well-being of affected communities.

In many communities, states, and regions there are already efforts under way that would create jobs in ways that would also reduce greenhouse gases and other forms of pollution and restoring ravaged natural and human environments. For example, New Energy Cities engages cities in the Northwest in promoting smart power grids, green intelligent buildings, plug-in electric vehicles, and energy storage, as well as renewable energy. And smart growth and regional planning groups throughout the country promote land-use policies that would reduce carbon and other emissions. All of these programs will take work—and create new jobs. Such activities can become part of a broad alternative program that strengthens the jobs case against coal plants—and defines clean-energy advocates as job-friendly.

Our Own Analysis

Crucial to such efforts are often studies that simultaneously expose the dubious jobs claims made for coal, show the jobs that will be created by alternative sources, and lay out economic development plans based on a transition to renewable energy.

Such plans can include new means of power generation; imaginative approaches to conservation; plans for training and transitioning the workforce; sources of funding; and ways to organize the people and institutions needed to make it all happen.

Such plans can include different levels. Some may be local initiatives that can be implemented immediately. Others may have to wait for changes in state or national policy. While the different aspects of such a plan may reinforce one another, they don’t have to move in lockstep; some can be started even though others are lagging behind.

While such studies require technical expertise, they can also serve as vehicles for gathering and articulating community opinion. For example, the study of the proposed Desert Rock power plant (see “Summary of Energy and Economic Alternatives to the Desert Rock Energy Project”) presented a well-documented case that renewable energy was a better economic option than coal, but it also incorporated interviews with thirty-nine stakeholders—Navajo reservation residents who would be directly affected by the proposed plant. Such participation can serve as a vehicle that a community can use to organize itself and find its own voice.

Sara Pennington and Randy Wilson of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth point out that an alternative economic development plan

not only has tangible energy, economic, and job creation benefits, but can also begin to shift public perception toward transition, offer a proactive plan that all but the most fearful or coal-captive politicians can promote, and launch a new, growing sector of the national economy. [iii]

Developing such a plan can lay the basis for concrete demands. For example, in the eastern Kentucky and Washington cases, utilities put up money for alternative economic development activities, and in the Delaware case the company agreed to adopt policies to encourage and support local economic development.

The Jobs Story: Coal vs. Alternatives

. A variety of studies have found that renewable energy and conservation produce substantially more jobs than fossil fuels, although the precise numbers vary somewhat from study to study and each local situation is unique. Renewable energy and energy efficiency tend to be labor-intensive and local. They contribute to job growth in manufacturing, construction, operation, and maintenance. In addition, dollars saved through energy efficiency tend to be spent and respent locally, creating further jobs.

A study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts examined the number of jobs created by spending the same amount on different forms of energy. [iv] It found the following results for spending $1 million:

Fossil fuels like coal and natural gas are the least job-intensive energy solutions. A dollar invested in energy efficiency and alternative energy creates more than twice as many jobs as the same amount invested in coal or gas. Energy efficiency and alternative energy also produce little or no environmental pollution or climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Natural gas produces less pollution than coal. Their relative effect on climate is still under debate. Coal is slightly more job-intensive than natural gas.

There are many kinds of biofuels. Some cause serious environmental effects, do little to reduce greenhouse gases, and raise food prices by diverting crops from food production. Others, such as new algae-based fuels, provide promising alternatives.

The relative cost of different energy sources varies depending on location and the ups and downs of the markets. A 2012 study by the Michigan Public Service Commission found that new renewable energy generation is now cheaper than new coal generation in Michigan. [v] Over time, renewable energy and energy efficiency will almost certainly become progressively cheaper relative to fossil fuels.

TVA Required to Fund Local Economic Development

After an eleven-year struggle by environmental groups and state governments, in April 2011 the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) reached agreement to phase out eighteen coal-fired power plant units and to install new pollution controls on thirty-six others. The agreement settled a suit brought by the National Parks Conservation Association, Our Children’s Earth Foundation, the Sierra Club, the states of Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The settlement requires TVA to spend $350 million on environmental mitigation projects to address the impacts of past emissions. Communities near TVA facilities will directly benefit from this investment in environmental projects designed to reduce harmful air pollution and advance environmental justice issues.

Under the settlement with EPA, TVA will spend $290 million for the following projects:

  • $240 million as part of the Energy Efficiency Projects that are designed to increase efficiency in transmission and demand-side supply to displace utilization of coal-fired electricity generation.
  • TVA’s Smart Energy Communities project will focus on energy efficiency, including: high-efficiency air-conditioning or water heating, lighting upgrades, and grid-integrated renewable energy.
  • As part of the Smart Energy Communities, TVA will provide “Extreme Energy Makeovers” for at least two communities in the Tennessee Valley. This project will retrofit low-income housing with the most cost-effective energy-reduction packages, thereby reducing energy consumption by as much as 25 percent, and thus power generation and associated criteria and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Additionally, TVA is offering incentive programs for residential, commercial, and industrial energy efficiency projects.
  • $40 million to reduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants through the Clean/Renewable Energy Projects. These projects include: waste heat recovery, electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid electric charging stations, solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, and landfill or waste treatment methane gas capture and generation.
  • $8 million for a Clean Diesel Retrofit and Electric Vehicle Project that requires TVA to either retrofit in-service, public diesel engines with emission control equipment designed to reduce emissions of NOx and volatile organic compounds or to replace such vehicles with electric or hybrid-electric vehicles.
  • $1 million each to the National Park Service and the National Forest Service to improve, protect, or rehabilitate park and forest lands that have been injured by emissions from TVA’s plants. [vi]

TVA will also distribute $60 million to Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee for these states to implement projects of their choosing from a list of categories in the consent decree.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson noted that in addition to saving lives and preventing billions of dollars in health costs, the agreement will “help create green job opportunities that will reduce pollution and improve energy efficiency.

Delaware: Coal to Wind


A promising effort to integrate employee and community jobs needs with transition from coal to clean, renewable energy was about to reach fruition in Delaware when changes in federal energy law blocked their progress. While the plan is now on hold, it illustrates some of the key elements for a job-friendly transition beyond coal.

In July 2010 the state of Delaware announced a consent agreement with NRG Energy, Inc., that would permanently close the third of four coal-fired electrical generators at the Indian River Power Plant. NRG was already at work on the Bluewater Wind Project, and as part of the agreement, NRG committed to focus its negotiations for offshore wind turbines for the project on companies that present a significant economic development and manufacturing opportunity for Delaware.

NRG also agreed to develop job-training programs in partnership with Delaware colleges to provide training opportunities for current employees and the local labor force for clean-energy jobs, including the company’s planned offshore wind park, electric vehicle infrastructure, and solar technology. NRG said it expected to close the coal-fired plant without layoffs through retirements, retraining, attrition, and redeployment.

Gov. Jack Markell said, “This agreement will be a significant step forward for environmental quality and to restore the health of the Inland Bays. The agreement also includes a strong economic development component that provides critical workforce training for jobs in a clean-energy economy.”

Secretary Collin O’Mara of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control added, “NRG’s plan for an offshore wind park, which will require five hundred construction jobs, and now their commitment to provide specialized training for current employees and local workers for those jobs and other alternative-energy programs, makes this a major step forward for Delaware’s improving public health and growing our clean-energy economy.”

The consent order included the following commitments by NRG:

  1. Offshore Wind Manufacturing: NRG will be negotiating over the next six months with offshore wind turbine manufacturer(s) that would offer significant economic development and job opportunities for Delaware in connection with the NRG wind park or other offshore wind projects.
  2. DelTech Training Program: In partnership with Delaware Technical and Community College, NRG will help develop and provide $150,000 for a Wind Turbine Technician training program in the construction and operation trades for any offshore wind project. Graduates will be trained in time for work on the Mid-Atlantic Wind Park.
  3. Construction Training for NRG Wind Park: NRG will provide tuition reimbursement to qualified existing NRG employees who enroll in the DelTech technician training program to be developed. NRG employees will be offered wind park construction jobs first, to the extent possible and consistent with state and federal employment laws.
  4. Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Jobs: NRG and the University of Delaware expect to develop a program to train electricians to install home, commercial, and public electric car charging stations as part of discussions for electric vehicle infrastructure development in Delaware.
  5. Solar Infrastructure Jobs: NRG will work with DelTech, University of Delaware, and Delaware State University programs to train installers and service technicians of solar technologies. NRG will also evaluate developing large-scale solar projects with attention to supporting local job creation in the areas of production, installation, and maintenance.

In December 2011 NRG put all of its offshore wind development projects on hold for the near term. In explaining the decision, it noted:

Two aspects of the project critical for success have actually gone backwards: the decisions of Congress to eliminate funding for the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program applicable to offshore wind, and the failure to extend the Federal Investment and Production Tax Credits for offshore wind which expire at the end of 2012 and which have rendered the Delaware project both unfinanceable and financially untenable for the present.

The company said it would “preserve its options by maintaining our development rights and continuing to seek development partners and equity investors. If and when market conditions improve and the company is able to find partners, NRG will look to deploy the Wind Park and explore other viable offshore wind opportunities in the Northeast.” [viii]

The Navajo Nation: A Just Transition from Coal

The Navajo Nation is a Native American–governed reservation roughly the size of West Virginia located in northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico. Its economy has traditionally been based on agriculture, crafts, and extractive industries; average family income is $7,500 per year and the unemployment rate typically exceeds 40 percent.

The reservation, occupied by Navajo and Hopi Indians, includes some of the richest coal deposits in the world. A complex of mines and power plants provides the great majority of the Navajo and Hopi tribal budgets [ix] and is the main source of on-reservation jobs. They also provide high levels of air pollution, asthma, lung damage, water pollution, and chemical damage to farms and ranches.

Desert Rock

When plans became known to build a new coal-fired power plant at Desert Rock on the New Mexico side of the reservation, the proposal divided the reservation. The builder promised the Navajo Nation $50 million a year. The Tribal Council voted 66–7 for the deal. Many residents hoped the plant would be a source of good jobs. But grassroots opposition soon emerged. Local residents crowded public hearings to oppose the plant; the group Diné [Navaho] Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment (CARE) sued to prevent mine expansion for the plant; [x] a new group called Dooda Desert Rock (No to Desert Rock) blockaded surveyors.

Opponents of the plant, and of the reservation’s dependence on coal, understood that it was not enough to oppose coal plants; they also had to address the economic and energy needs of the reservation’s impoverished, job-deprived, and culturally abused residents. Diné CARE worked with Ecos consultants to prepare a study that provided not only a critique of the Desert Rock proposal, but detailed alternatives for wind, solar, gas, and conservation (see “Energy and Economic Alternatives to the Desert Rock Energy Project”).

Black Mesa

Meanwhile in the Black Mesa region on the Arizona side of the reservation, the Black Mesa Water Coalition and other grassroots and environmental groups had successfully ended the abuse of reservation water resources by Peabody Coal. They recognized, however, that the economically deprived people of the Navajo Nation needed something more than simply blocking sources of pollution. So they established the Just Transition Coalition, whose purpose was to “justly transition Navajo employment sources off of coal mining and into renewable energy.” Composed primarily of Hopi and Navajo and environmental justice allies, including Indigenous Environmental Network, Honor the Earth Foundation, Apollo Alliance, Black Mesa Water Coalition, To’Nizhoni Ani, Grand Canyon Trust, and the Sierra Club, the coalition developed a plan for economic development based on tribally owned wind and solar projects. [xi]

The coalition took advantage of a unique situation. The closing of a highly polluting generating station had provided its owner, Southern California Edison, $30 million annually in pollution allowances which could be sold under the U.S. Acid Rain Program. The Just Transition Coalition asked the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the company, to devote that money to implementing a just transition plan for the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe.

The plan would direct 30 percent of the pollution credits to local villages and tribal governments to invest in solar, wind, and ecotourism; 10 percent to job retraining; 40 percent to alternative-energy development and production; and 20 percent to tribal government programs previously supported by coal royalties. While the plan did not claim to replace the jobs already lost because of the plant shutdown, it did aim to provide jobs and economic development in the region around the plant.

The California Public Utilities Commission took the groundbreaking step of ordering that all proceeds from pollution allowance sales be put in a special account to fund renewable energy investment. It thereupon requested proposals from the Just Transition Coalition for how the funds should be spent. The outcome remains tied up in a lengthy regulatory and legal process.

The Just Transition Coalition revealed the need for a way for Navajo communities to build and support local green-job initiatives. The Black Mesa Water Coalition therefore launched a Navajo Green Jobs campaign to support green economic initiatives including both “traditional economic activities such as weaving, farming, and raising livestock” and “modern technologies such as wind and solar projects, energy efficiency, green construction, and green manufacturing.” That developed into Diné Binaanish Yá’át’éehgo Noosééł (Navajo people working together to build positive and healthy jobs for all).

The Black Mesa Water Coalition developed and won passage of the first green-jobs policy to be adopted by a tribal nation. It defined green jobs as “well-paid jobs created by sustainable businesses and/or industries that are low- or nonpolluting; and green jobs respect the traditional Diné culture and Mother Earth.” In 2009 the Navajo Nation established two new agencies, the Navajo Nation Green Economy Commission and the Navajo Nation Green Economy Fund. They aim to work across tribal departments to help tackle unemployment and poverty through green-jobs creation.

Despite having established a green economy sector within the Navajo Nation’s government, the Navajo Green Jobs campaign decided to continue as a vehicle for community empowerment. Much of its work has involved presenting its green-jobs plan to local communities and getting their input to adapt it to their needs. The campaign has run summits for experts, community members, and youth; workshops for Tribal Council members; sustainability fairs with live music, sustainability demonstrations, and farmers markets; and a network to connect with tribal members at universities and off-reservation towns. It is also creating programs and materials to support the development of small-scale green enterprises on the reservation (see “Green Toolkit”).

The Black Mesa Water Coalition is now working on two green economic development pilot projects. The Navajo Wool Market pilot project is conducting a prefeasibility study on the traditional Navajo wool industry and case studies of applicable experiences from community enterprises elsewhere. The Black Mesa Solar Initiative is exploring the possibility of a community-owned solar energy cooperative. The project will begin with a solar photovoltaic installation that includes a community benefits agreement with a small equity ownership stake for the residents, local hire provisions, and home solar PV systems for families in the area. [xii] Much of the solar energy collection will take place on reclaimed land previously damaged by coal-mining processes.


The Future of Coal in the Navajo Nation

Today the reservation continues to be divided over the future role of coal in its economy. The EPA has proposed to require significant pollution reduction at the Navajo Generating Station, a major power plant with an associated coal mine whose owner has threatened to shut down the plant if the proposed regulations are implemented. The tribal governments and the local government in the community where the plant is located are asking that the proposed regulations be withdrawn. But the reservation’s environmental organizations argue for a transition to a sustainable alternative, preferably solar (see “Explaining the Power Plant Debate”). [xiii]

In 2009 the EPA acknowledged that the air permit it had awarded to the Desert Rock project was based on an inadequate analysis of its particulate matter, mercury, ozone precursor, and carbon dioxide emissions, and a failure to consult with other agencies; in September 2009 the EPA withdrew the permit. Thereupon the Bureau of Indian Affairs withdrew an opinion in support of the plant; the Tribal Council declined to confirm investment in the project; industrial revenue bonds to finance the project expired; and the developer stated it has no plans to resubmit its air permit application to the EPA. [xiv] Meanwhile opinion on the reservation had shifted: Both top candidates for president of the Navajo Nation opposed the project. [xv] In August 2010 Diné CARE treasurer Lori Goodman declared, “Desert Rock is dead.” [xvi]

Alternatives for Desert Rock



Summary of Energy and Economic Alternatives to the Desert Rock Energy Project Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment HC 63 Box 263 Winslow, Arizona 86047 505.801.0713 / 928.380.7697 January 18, 2008

Explaining the Power Plant Debate

Michigan: Framing Clean Energy as a Jobs Issue

This webpage from the Michigan Sierra Club illustrates many of the ways that jobs and economic development can be framed as a positive part of the clean energy message.


Clean-Energy Future

The shift to clean energy in Michigan is well under way—our biggest challenge in 2011 is to make sure that politicians in Washington, in Lansing, and in our hometowns don’t block our clean-energy future. Michigan became a national leader in clean-energy investments in recent years. More than 100,000 jobs have been created and $10 billion invested in solar component manufacturing, advanced batteries, wind turbine construction, energy efficiency, and more. But Governor Snyder and Michigan Congressional and Legislative leaders seem determined to turn back the clock—threatening not only new and expanding good clean-energy jobs and our competitiveness as a state, but promoting dirty energy like coal and nuclear power that threaten our children, the Great Lakes, and Michigan’s future.

Michigan needs a clean-energy future that starts with increasing our energy efficiency so we can do more with less dollars. We need to build more clean-energy components here, and deploy them here to produce our own renewable energy here instead of sending train carloads of dollars out of state to buy dirty coal and oil. Michigan has some of the best wind power opportunities in the country, and a huge potential for solar power as well. Our children need Michigan to get Beyond Coal now, from transitioning away from MSU’s coal plant, the largest on-campus coal plant in the country, to dumping the expensive and dangerous plans for new coal plants in our state. And it is well past time for Michigan to say no to a new nuclear power plant.

Michigan has a good head start in making the transition to a clean-energy economy that will eliminate toxic mercury and global warming gases and protect our health, while making our energy of the future affordable and keeping good jobs in Michigan. There are many ways for you to get involved, from adopting clean energy yourself to joining our lobby days at the state capitol!

Please join us in the effort to build a clean-energy future for Michigan.


Holland Beyond Coal

Holland Board of Public Works is pursuing expansion of the municipal utility’s coal-fired power plant. Sierra Club members in Holland are working to advance clean-energy alternatives that will protect the health and well-being of the residents for generations to come. Learn more about our work here.

Biofuels and Biomass in Michigan

Sierra Club calls on state and federal agencies to stop funding the Frontier Renewable Resources project. Michigan is fortunate to have abundant forests and farmland. As such, our state is of keen interest to developers of biomass and biofuel projects. While our country needs to move forward with research and development of appropriate biofuel-based energy sources, it must be done with care and a guarantee of sustainability. Currently, however, Michigan is rushing forward to use tax dollars to subsidize projects that are both economically and environmentally unsustainable.

Stop the Michigan Coal Rush

Starting in 2007, Michiganders saw one of the most aggressive efforts to build new coal plants of any state in the nation. Through the extraordinary hard work of a wide coalition of energy, faith, tribal, health, and environmental organizations, in August of 2010 every one of the eight proposed coal plants was canceled, was put on indefinite hold, or had been denied a needed air pollution permit by the state of Michigan. Several proposals are back on the drawing board. Find out how you can help Michigan reject old, dirty coal, and to secure an efficiency-first renewable clean-energy future!

Clean Energy

In October Michigan took its first, long-overdue step toward a green-energy future and fighting climate change. Gov. Granholm signed into law Public Acts 286 and 295 establishing requirements for energy efficiency and renewable electric generation of all electric providers in Michigan. While this was a good start, Michigan has much more to do to assure that we are creating both a clean-energy future and the economic benefits this can bring. Find out more and how you can get involved in Energy 2!

Global Warming

Global Warming is already affecting Michigan in many ways, and the threat is growing. But our state is far behind many of other states when it comes to controlling our contributions of greenhouse gases that threaten our children’s future. Even though slow progress is being made, our Michigan leaders must be convinced to move faster and smarter to prevent worse damage to the planet. Learn what you can do and join our campaign!

Cool Cities Initiative

The Cool Cities campaign is a grassroots campaign designed to help citizens encourage their mayors to sign on to the U.S. Mayors climate protection agreement.

Clean, Renewable Energy

Michigan is currently at a crossroads to secure our economic and energy future. Bold, immediate leadership is required to bring new industries to Michigan—including clean, alternative energy sources like advanced batteries, wind and solar power—before other states position themselves as leaders and draw investment in these emerging industries. By acting now, we can make Michigan a leader and make clean energy the profitable kind of energy.

Michigan: Making a Clean Energy Program a Program for Jobs

This “campaign platform” for the Sierra Club’s ReEnergize Michigan campaign illustrates many ways that specific clean energy initiatives can be presented as means to create jobs and economic development.


During the 2007–2008 legislative session, a package of bills was passed that begin to put Michigan on a path to a cleaner energy future. However, Michigan’s incentives for clean-energy investments are not as strong as our Midwestern neighbors. Michigan has the resources to lead the nation in clean-energy innovations that have the power to transform our economy. But we must put stronger policies in place to encourage far greater investments. In addition, current law does not do enough to address the need for rapid investment in energy efficiency, which has proven to be a simple, cost-effective policy that spurs immediate job creation, reduces energy consumption, and saves business and residents money.

The ReEnergize Michigan! campaign champions progressive legislation to make Michigan a leader in the jobs of the future by investing in clean, alternative-energy industries, like advanced batteries, wind, and solar power. The campaign is also addressing the need to protect Michigan consumers from home foreclosures due to energy bill nonpayment and shutoffs, as well as increasing investment in low-income home-weatherization projects.

The public is hungry for bold policies that provide incentives for immediate job growth with an eye toward sustainability. Increasing investment in clean, alternative energy and energy efficiency demonstrates to the public that Michigan’s legislature is willing to do what it takes to change the direction of our state’s economy.

ReEnergize Michigan! Campaign Platform

Create powerful incentives for clean, alternative energy production and manufacturing:

Michigan must create and expand tax incentives for clean, alternative energy production and manufacturing, with the goal of luring clean-energy industries to the state and creating thousands of good jobs for our skilled workers. Michigan must also promote a clean-energy economy with groundbreaking programs helping residential customers and businesses become alternative-energy entrepreneurs. Utilities must pay a fair price, including a return on investment, for electricity generated and put onto the grid. This policy is often referred to as a feed-in tariff, but the bill that has been introduced to meet this policy objective is called the Renewable Energy Sources Act, HB 4137.

Encourage immediate investment in clean, alternative energy like wind and solar power:

Michigan must raise the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to at least 30 percent by 2025 to create the needed incentives for clean, alternative-energy industries to locate in Michigan. With one of the strongest and cleanest renewable-energy standards in the nation, our state will become a magnet for the development of advanced batteries, wind, and solar power. Michigan must send a signal to the rest of the world that Michigan will spearhead the new-energy economy while doing our part to reduce the impacts of global warming. This bill is currently being drafted—no bill number yet.

Make Michigan a leader in building “green”:

Michigan should improve building codes so that new construction is as efficient as possible. The state should also provide incentives and education to transform Michigan’s construction industry so that buildings become part of the solution to energy conservation and efficiency as well as energy production. A number of bills have been introduced to meet this objective, including HB 4756, which raises our building-efficiency standards, and HB 4575, which allows communities to set higher building-efficiency standards than the state.

Maximize investments in energy efficiency, saving money, and creating thousands of skilled jobs:

Michigan must continue to promote innovations in energy efficiency by increasing the energy savings requirements from energy efficiency to at least 2 percent annually. Energy efficiency is the cheapest energy resource and has the potential to create thousands of good jobs in all corners of the state that can’t be outsourced. Maximizing energy efficiency eliminates investment risks because of its proven effectiveness at capturing baseload power at the lowest possible cost. It also saves money for all ratepayers. This bill is currently being drafted.

Create incentives for sustainable biofuels and advanced battery production:

Michigan must enact a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) to reduce the carbon-intensity of transportation fuels, on a life cycle basis, by 10 percent by 2020. An LCFS will pave the way for Michigan to become a leader in the advanced battery storage industry and sustainable biofuels. Environmental safeguards and sustainability standards for biofuel production must be enacted to ensure protection of air and water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, soil fertility, and forest health. This bill is currently being drafted.

Protecting Michigan Residents

Prohibit home foreclosures due to energy bill nonpayment:

The foreclosure crisis is hitting Michigan harder than other parts of the country. Michigan must protect homeowners from foreclosures resulting from nonpayment of electricity and gas bills.

Prohibit complete electricity shutoffs for vulnerable populations:

Michigan must not let vulnerable citizens, including seniors, people with disabilities, and low- or no-income householders, to be exposed to dangerous weather conditions by complete energy shutoff for bill nonpayment.

Fully invest in low-income home-weatherization projects:

Michigan must maximize weatherization of low-income homes to help families slash utility bills and stay comfortable in their homes. Michigan must take full advantage of weatherization funds made available to states by the federal government.

Numerous bills have been introduced to meet the above three policy objectives.

COAL POWER vs. NEW POWER in Eastern Kentucky

A significant portion of electricity in eastern Kentucky is provided by the East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC), a rural electric co-op made up of sixteen distribution co-ops and serving eighty-seven counties. [xvii]

In 2005 the Kentucky Public Service Commission approved an EKPC proposal to build the Smith coal plant in Clark County. [xviii]

On October 29, 2009, a public interest coalition of individuals and organizations filed a formal complaint with the Kentucky Public Service Commission asking that the approval be revoked. They argued that changes in demand for energy and the development of renewable alternatives made the plant unnecessary. The coalition included Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC), the Sierra Club, and the Kentucky Environmental Foundation. [xix]

The coalition knew that the issue of jobs and economic impacts would be crucial in impoverished eastern Kentucky. They therefore commissioned a study by the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies (see “Power Studies”) showing that far more jobs would be created and electric rates would be lower if EKPC invested instead in energy efficiency, weatherization, hydropower, and wind power.

KFTC, a group with chapters in communities throughout Kentucky, issued educational materials specifically directed to the impact of energy decisions on workers and their jobs (see “8 Reasons Workers Should Say ‘YES’ to Clean Energy and ‘NO’ to Smith “). They held community meetings around the Ochs Center report. Community leaders attended air and water permit hearings. They met with EKPC board members to encourage them to support the alternative to the Smith plant.

In June 2010 the Kentucky Public Service Commission started an investigation of the need for the Smith plant and ordered the EKPC to provide extensive information regarding the plant. [xx]

That set the stage for negotiations among the parties. On November 18, 2010, EKPC reached an agreement with the public interest coalition. EKPC agreed to immediately halt plans to build the Smith plant and to stop seeking permits to proceed with construction. Even more remarkably, it committed $125,000 toward a collaborative effort in which EKPC and its member co-ops would work together with public interest groups to evaluate and recommend new energy-efficiency programs and renewable-energy options in Kentucky. [xxi]

The Clean Energy Collaborative is now meeting for quarterly roundtables. It involves a wide range of partners, including the EKPC and its member co-ops, the public interest coalition members, and housing and economic development groups.

Power Studies


William Tharp, Ph.D. Lori Quillen Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies July 2009


As an alternative to building the proposed Smith #1 plant, an investment in a combination of energy efficiency, weatherization, hydropower, and wind power initiatives in the East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) region would generate more than 8,750 new jobs for Kentucky residents, with a total impact of more than $1.7 billion on the region’s economy over the next three years. This alternative approach would meet the energy needs of EKPC customers at a lower cost than the proposed coal plant.

Unlike projected economic activity that would result from construction of a new coal‐burning power plant, investing in renewable energy, efficiency, and weatherization would result in jobs and benefits across the region rather than in a smaller geographic area around the site of the proposed coal-burning power plant.

Over a three-year period of construction and implementation, energy-efficiency and weatherization initiatives would create nearly $1.2 billion in economic activity and more than 5,400 jobs. The development of small-scale hydropower generation at 20 sites in the region would create more than $500 million in economic activity and more than 3,300 jobs.

8 Reasons Workers Should Say YES to Clean Energy and NO to Smith


  • A clean-energy solution will create thousands MORE JOBS: An efficiency and renewables plan will create thousands of jobs, rather than only hundreds of jobs created by the Smith plant. Over a period of 3 years, a clean-energy job plan creates nearly 4,600 direct jobs. Smith will create only 700 temporary and 60 permanent jobs.
  • Jobs will be created FASTER: Within the first three months of ramping up the clean-energy solution, more than 300 jobs could be created; the Smith Plant will create less than 100 jobs over this same period.
  • These are GOOD jobs: Clean-energy jobs will be good, well-paying jobs for plumbers, carpenters, and electricians—resulting in over $370 million in new income for KY workers directly working these jobs.
  • These are LOCAL jobs: Jobs in efficiency, weatherization, and renewables are safe, stable, and community-based. They can’t be shipped overseas, and are spread across many sectors.
  • The clean-energy jobs will BENEFIT KYs ECONOMY: The net economic benefits for Kentucky will total $1.7 billion over a 3-year period.
  • This is OUR OPPORTUNITY to create good green jobs in KY: All around the country, plumbers, steelworkers, electricians are leading the charge for a new clean-energy agenda. They are retrofitting thousands of buildings in Boston and New York, installing wind and solar in Ohio, California, and elsewhere! Now’s our chance to fight for good, green jobs to ensure KY workers don’t get left behind.
  • Green jobs are the FUTURE of KY: In KY green jobs are growing faster than other sectors of the economy. From 1998–2007 clean-energy jobs grew by 10 percent compared to 3.6 percent in overall job growth in KY.
  • The clean-energy solution will SAVE FAMILIES MONEY: Cost of electricity from the Smith coal-burning plant: $74.73 per megawatt-hour. Cost from efficiency and renewables: $62.10 per MWh—17 percent less expensive.

Support Good, Green, Union Jobs for KY!

Renew Eastern Kentucky


Strengthened by the effort to block the Smith coal-fired power plant, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) began developing a broader economic plan for addressing the needs and utilizing the strengths of eastern Kentucky.

Eastern Kentucky is an economically depressed area. Some counties in eastern Kentucky have an official unemployment rate over 23 percent. Overall rural poverty is over 25 percent; some counties have poverty rates near 45 percent. [xxiii]

To address these realities, KFTC calls for an “Appalachian transition”:

a web of complementary efforts that will facilitate a deliberate transition to a new, sustainable, mixed economy, driven by strategies rooted in interdependent sectors ranging from local agriculture to arts, sustainable forestry to new energy sources.

The East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) has agreed to collaborate to pursue new energy-efficiency programs and renewable energy options in eastern Kentucky. Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) has started a campaign called “Renew Eastern Kentucky” to make such a new-energy strategy the basis for an “Appalachian transition” in eastern Kentucky.

The campaign is based on a Renew Eastern Kentucky plan for an “aggressive, well-funded, five-year initiative in the EKPC service area in cooperation with local, state, and national agencies and organizations.”

Elements include:

  • investment in residential efficiency and weatherization programs
  • local renewable energy projects, such as small-scale hydroelectric at existing dams
  • on-bill “pay as you save” installment financing (see “On-Bill Financing”)
  • funding through low-interest loans from the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service
  • coordination with affordable housing efforts
  • workforce development for green-energy jobs

The plan would produce thousands of job-years, far more than fossil fuel energy. And it would make energy more affordable. Jobs would be concentrated in eastern Kentucky communities, including some of the most impoverished.

The campaign also aims to help restore the democratic character of the energy co-ops by such reforms as contested elections, open meetings, and member access to records.

The campaign aims to develop a “cooperative leadership based on a vision of a brighter future” including partners “from community colleges to labor unions, housing nonprofits to community action agencies.”

First steps are already under way:

  • KFTC is holding meetings between its local chapters and their local EKPC distribution co-ops.
  • The Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) has initiated a pilot program for on-bill financing of residential energy efficiency for 200–300 houses in four co-ops. The program has won the approval of the Public Utilities Commission.
  • KFTC members have met with members of Congress to encourage support for the Rural Star bill that would provide funding for such programs.
  • KFTC has met with training and workforce development organizations to explore job training possibilities.

Kentuckians For the Commonwealth's Campaign to Renew East Kentucky


Renew East Kentucky is an organizing campaign to move Kentucky’s rural electric co-ops toward cleaner energy, increased energy efficiency, and more open and democratic governance.

Our goal is to create good, local jobs, ensure affordable electricity for those most vulnerable, and begin shifting power from the hands of the few to the hands of the many.

Renew East Kentucky will be an important step in transitioning our region to a sustainable and healthy economy that is good for all of us.

The 16 cooperatives in the East Kentucky Power Cooperative service area

We are Kentuckians. We love our families. We care about our communities. And we want what everybody wants: more affordable energy; good jobs that don’t do damage to our land, air, or water; a say in the important decisions that affect us; and healthy communities.

Today we have the best opportunity in generations to build the Kentucky we deserve. KFTC members are now at the table with electric co-ops, looking for ways to bring about more energy efficiency and renewable energy. Energy-saving pilot projects, including the new How$martKY program, are taking place throughout the area. And people are stepping up more and more to participate in the decisions their co-ops are making.

But we must keep working. We are facing real economic hardships. We have to organize our communities and convince the co-ops that helping their members save energy and save money should be a top priority. We need to lobby our decision-makers to get behind clean energy, energy efficiency, and job training. And we need to communicate a vision of what is possible: that together we can renew east Kentucky.

We have a vision. We’re taking action.

To renew east Kentucky, we propose that the East Kentucky Power Cooperative and its sixteen distribution cooperatives launch a strong energy-efficiency and renewable-energy program that is well-funded and long-lasting in the EKPC service area.


KFTC members are currently participating in the Clean Energy Collaborative with EKPC with a goal of developing and recommending a well-researched energy-efficiency and clean-energy plan to the EKPC Board of Directors.

Grants and loans from USDAʼs Rural Utility Service (RUS) and other funders could fund a large part of this initiative, allowing the co-ops to implement these significant energy-efficiency and renewable-energy solutions.

On-bill financing is also an important part of the plan. How$martKY, a program now in the pilot (or testing) stage, will allow co-op members to upgrade their homes and pay for improvements with their utility savings.

Implementing this plan will also require its adoption by the EKPC board, approval by state regulators, as well as a region-wide commitment to workforce development.

And we will need committed and energetic partners, both established and unlikely, from the community colleges to labor unions, housing nonprofits to community action agencies

KFTC members have begun taking action and, over the coming years, we will work to Renew East Kentucky in the following ways:

  • Organize in our communities by hosting house parties, talking with neighbors, etc.
  • Participate in the Clean Energy Collaborative with EKPC & the co-ops
  • Help promote the How$martKY on-bill financing program
  • Work to reform the local distribution cooperatives
  • Lobby for legislation to bring clean energy to Kentucky and funding for on-bill financing
  • Develop leadership skills related to clean energy and democracy
  • Create and use strategic communications tools and materials

Renew East Kentucky


Renew East Kentucky is a campaign by Kentuckians For The Commonwealth to move Kentuckyʼs rural electric co-ops toward cleaner energy, increased energy efficiency, and more open and democratic governance. Our goal is to create good, local jobs, ensure affordable electricity for those most vulnerable, and begin shifting power from the hands of the few to the hands of the many. Renew East Kentucky will be an important step in transitioning our region to a sustainable and healthy economy that is good for all people.

Sign below if you want to learn more or get involved:

Name ____________________________ Address ____________________________ City ______________________________ State ______ Zipcode _____________ Phone __________________________ Email ____________________________ Electric Utility ____________________

Optional:Please answer the questions in this right-hand column if you are interested in energy-savings programs. KFTC may share this information with organizations who are working to provide affordable energy efficiency and clean energy options to utility customers.

House size in square feet? _________________________ Highest bill amount? ___________ When? ____________

Type of heating system(s)? _________________________ How old is your heating system? _____________________ Do you stay comfortable in winter?___________________

Return this petition to: Kentuckians For The Commonwealth 140 Mini Mall Drive, Berea, KY 40403

For more information contact Sara Pennington at or (606) 276-9933

On-Bill Financing

If residents can weatherize their homes or add solar hot water heaters, their monthly electric bill goes way down. But all too often they can’t afford to make the investment. With “on-bill financing,” residents get a low- or no-interest loan and pay it off out of what they save on their monthly electric bill. The proposed Rural Energy Savings Program Act would provide zero-interest loans from USDA for “pay-as-you-save” on-bill financing.

Such a program is already under way in rural western Kansas. Midwest Energy in Hays, Kansas, has developed a program called How$mart that provides money for energy-efficiency improvements such as insulation, air sealing, and new heating and cooling systems for residential and small business consumers. Customers—whether owners or tenants—don’t have to put up any money up front. Customers repay the funds through energy savings on their monthly power bills.

Customers start with an energy audit to determine potential savings. The power supplier develops an individualized conservation plan. Customers choose a contractor. If the customer moves or sells the property, the deal passes to the next customer at that location.

The program started with a pilot in four rural counties in the summer of 2008; it then spread through rural western Kansas. A year later it had invested $1 million in more than two hundred rural homes and businesses. It is estimated that customers will save more than 400,000 kilowatt hours per year, enough to power forty homes. That will put 13,000 fewer tons of carbon dioxide into the environment over the next twenty years. The Environmental Defense Fund recently recognized How$mart as one of America’s best energy innovations.

The Kansas Energy Office is using $37 million in stimulus money to start a statewide program called Efficiency Kansas based on the principles of How$mart. It is already creating new green jobs and training. The Wichita Area Technical College, for example, is offering scholarships for an energy-auditors program, and the state is offering $250,000 in scholarships for auditor programs. The state is also providing $250,000 in equipment that students can rent after graduation to get started in the business.


[i] Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies, “A Fraction of the Jobs: A Case Study of the Job Creation Impact of Completed Coal-Fired Power Plants Between 2005 and 2009” (Chattanooga: Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies, 2011), 1.

[ii] Onell R. Soto, “Unneeded South Bay Power Plant OK’d for Demolition,” San Diego Union-Tribune, October 17, 2010.

[iii] Sara Pennington and Randy Wilson, “A Cooperative Approach to Renewing East Kentucky,” Solutions (July 2010).

[iv] Robert Pollin, James Heintz, and Heidi Garrett-Peltier, “Clean Energy Investments for the U.S. Economy,” discussion paper for 3/22/10 Surdna Foundation Conference, Table 2, “Total Employment Creation through Alternative Energy Sources: Direct, Indirect, and Induced Effects for $1 Million in Spending.”

[v] Michigan Public Service Commission, “Report on the Implementation of the P.A. 295 Renewable Energy Standard and the Cost-Effectiveness of the Energy Standards” (Lansing: Michigan Public Service Commission, 2012).

[vi] US Environmental Protection Agency, “Tennessee Valley Authority Clean Air Act Settlement,” April 14, 2011.

[vii] Sierra Club, “Clean Energy Victory! Madison Moves Beyond Coal.” Press release, August 1, 2008.

[viii] NRG, “NRG to Put Offshore Wind Development on Hold for the Near Term,” December 12, 2011.

[ix] Nace, Climate Hope, 136 (see n. 6).

[x] Ibid., 140–42.

[xi] Black Mesa Water Coalition, “Navajo Green Jobs.”

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Felicia Fonseca, “Arizona Coal Plant Focus of Congressional Hearing,” Associated Press, May 25, 2011, and Cindy Yurth, “Power Plant Debate,” Navajo Times, November 18, 2011.

[xiv] Laura Paskus, “The Life and Death of Desert Rock,” High Country News, August 16, 2012.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] Will Sands, “The Death of Desert Rock?The Durango Telegraph, August 12, 2010.

[xvii] Pennington and Wilson, “A Cooperative Approach” (see n. 33).

[xviii] Sierra Club, “East Kentucky Power Cooperative Agrees to Halt Plans for Smith Coal Plants,” November 18, 2010.

[xix] Jeff Biggers, “Kentucky Cancels Coal Plant, New Power Movement Electrifies Grassroot Alliance,” Grist, November 18, 2010.

[xx] Sierra Club, “East Kentucky Power Cooperative Agrees” (see n. 48).

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Pennington and Wilson, “A Cooperative Approach” (see n. 33).

[xxiii] Ibid.